Pakistan has begun mass assembly of the JF-17 Thunder fighter at an aircraft-manufacturing plant in the northwest of the country, state television has reported.
The JF-17 Thunder, also known as the FC-1 Fierce Dragon in China, is a single-seat multi-role fighter aircraft developed by China and co-financed by Pakistan. The Thunder is a fourth generation fighter that will provide adequate capabilities to the Pakistan Air Force at a substantially low price.
The development is significant in that the need for the Indian Air Force to refurbish its fleet of ageing fighters is still languishing with delayed RFPs for a multi role combat aircraft or with the development of the LCA Tejas.
According to the report, about half of the on-board equipment and avionics for the fighter will be manufactured in Pakistan at the Kamra plant, while the rest of the assembly parts are to come from China.
Pakistani Air Force chief of air staff, Air Chief Marshal, Tanvir Mahmood Ahmed, said last year that 15 aircraft would be manufactured in 2008, and a further 20 next year, with an ultimate goal of achieving the capability to manufacture 25 to 30 aircraft per year.
Pakistan has announced that it could procure 150-300 aircraft to meet the tactical and strategic needs of its air force. The Thunder is intended to replace the Chengdu F-7P fighters in current service.
Beijing has delivered two of these $20mn fighters to Pakistan last year in March. Equipped with Russian-made RD-93 engines, the transfer had evoked Indian protests to Russia.